Job Interview 101: Everything a Candidate Needs To Know – Part I

Let’s face it. Job interviews are hard. They’re like first dates, but without booze. The expectations are high, and so are the stakes. As a candidate, you want to do your best, and showcase your best to a person you have yet to build rapport with – and that’s not easy.

Any social setting where you are seated face-to-face with a complete stranger can be daunting. Add the pressure of wanting to impress that person for another meeting, and you’ve got a date. Add a CV, and you’ve got a job interview. Minus the booze. But this isn’t about dating. This is about your future job, and giving you the best possible tools to meet the challenges of the interview head on – fully equipped to nail it. So let’s talk about everything a candidate needs to know for a job interview.

More Than An Interview

During a job interview, a candidate is assessed for their skills, experience, competencies, potential and cultural fit. The person must demonstrate not only the functional skills but the competencies required for the role. A common misconception is that a job interview is only about a candidate’s current role, and the role they are applying for. Job interviews are far wider in scope, and look at a candidate’s overall performance in previous roles, as well as potential future roles in the company hiring. The candidate is not only being assessed on their current situation, but their suitability for the company at large. You must prove you are a long-term fit.

With a number of candidates all vying to pass the job interview, you can’t set yourself up for an ‘adequate’ performance. Set yourself apart from the other candidates, making yourself memorable, and setting the benchmark for all other candidates to meet. The first task at hand is committing to give the interview the very best of you. This means putting all the skills, knowledge and hard-work to the test, by preparing for the interview as a test of these traits. It involves research, planning, and executing the interview in the same manner as you would any professional project you have – and intend to work on.

Know Your Self

The subject of the job interview is not the role in question. It is you. Do you meet the requirements in question, not whether they fit you. As the subject of the interview, it’s always a good idea to get to know yourself first. Ask yourself these questions – and answer them beforehand:

  • Why do I want this role? Why do I want to work in this company?
  • Why is this opportunity important to me?
  • Why am I suitable for this role?
  • Why should I be hired, rather than other candidates?
  • What do I have, that others do not?
  • How best can I demonstrate this in an interview?

To this regard, knowing your CV is simply not enough. You are more than your CV. They’ve already read your CV, and now, they want to read you. So, be an open book. Enable them to navigate and capture the essence of your professional self with clarity and ease, by making sure your ‘book’ is a page-turner! For example:

  • Know the details of each of your professional engagements, and be prepared to provide an articulate summary of academic, professional and competency examples.
  • Be able to take the interviewer through your CV, highlighting specific accomplishments relevant to this position.
  • Ensure you have metrics and statistics to hand if asked to cite them. Detail the proven results of your work, and its effect on the company’s success in clear measurables. The interviewer is looking for validation of your achievements, so prepare to have them to hand.
  • Have examples ready of past professional scenarios – interesting, unforeseen, challenging, successful or unsuccessful, and your learnings from these events.
  • How have you have had a direct impact on the company? How did you elevate your role beyond its basic requirements?
  • Stakeholder management is important for most roles. Be able to explain previous experiences with multiple stakeholders, managing multiple tasks, priorities and considerations.
  • Prepare to be upfront about any experiences or challenges with valid cause for professional disagreement or conflict, and provide details of the steps taken or lessons learned.
  • Expect to be questioned, and even challenged about the decisions you’ve made and your thought process in certain situations. You are not being judged, you are simply being asked.

Know The Subject. Inside-Out.

The topic of the conversation is your professional fit for the role, and company at large. Therefore, you must be ready to discuss and demonstrate your professional choices, expertise and knowledge. During employment, it is easy to rest, perhaps complacently, in the comfort zone of a role for a prolonged period of time, and lose touch with your role’s wider consequences on the company, and industry as a whole. It is now time to make those connections, for the role you filled, and for the one you aspire to:

  • Link your professional background to the specifications of the role in question. Establish a direct, undeniable relevance between your past and the role you hope to secure for the future.
  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of your current employer’s company culture, business portfolio, objectives and place in the market.
  • Ensure you know the company’s products, competitors and sector. Stay up to date with recent news and events, and be ready to provide information.
  • Same as above, for your potential employer. Know the role, the company and the market space which they occupy. What are their products? Who are their competitors? What have they done, and what have they been up to lately? Read their press releases and blogs; search the web for any news which will establish you as a candidate who has done their homework. It will only pay off when you get the role, and can get to a flying start.
  • Check out the company’s social media pages for good examples of how the company markets itself, and how it manages its PR, its marketing, and even their client relations. is a particularly useful social business site for providing company testimonials, interview questions and candidate impressions.
  • Have an opinion. Give examples of companies or brands which resonate with you, and why they do so. Be honest about your previous company’s offerings, and especially for those which which relate to the role in question. Use the opportunity to showcase your critical thinking, thought-process and unique point of view when discussing areas for improvement.

Check part II here.

4 thoughts on “Job Interview 101: Everything a Candidate Needs To Know – Part I

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